In 2015 we celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta is the most important document you may never have heard of.
You may not have read it, but its legacy has inspired liberty and freedom in many countries across the world today.
The grant of the Magna Carta 800 years ago has led to the idea that liberty and freedom should be protected by the law.
It showed us it was possible to build societies based on the rule of law and respect for the liberty of all people.
"Magna Carta has lived in the hearts and minds of our people. It is an incantation of the spirit of liberty. Whatever its text or meaning, it has become the talisman of a society in which tolerance and democracy reside, a society in which each man and woman has and is accorded his or her unique dignity, a society in which power and privilege do not produce tyranny and oppression".
King John was the King of England in 1215. He was a tyrant who ruled unfairly and unjustly. He answered to no one and thought he was above the law.
He stole land, kidnapped people, and starved them to death.
He had people jailed without trial and gave harsh punishments for small crimes.
Whenever he needed more money he would increase taxes.
King John was so hated that no other King of England has ever been called John.
"Hell itself is defiled by the presence of King John"
"...John was to be remembered as a tyrant with no redeeming qualities."
The barons, the Church of England and the people were tired of King John's disregard for the law. They wanted him to respect the law, and their liberty.
In 1215 there was usually only one way to get rid of a King - WAR.
The barons gathered an army and announced that they were rebelling against the King. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, attempted to negotiate with King John and the barons.
The barons took control of London and it seemed war was unavoidable.
A list of demands, "The Articles of the Barons" was drafted, and a negotiation was set up at Runnymede, halfway between London and Windsor Castle.
Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton and the barons work on the demands which are to soon be granted as the Magna Carta.
Despite the fact that the 1215 Magna Carta did not last 3 months before it was annulled, it was reissued after the death of King John. These reissues kept the ideas of the Magna Carta fresh in the minds of the English people.
It is said that King John died of dysentery, caused by eating too many peaches and drinking too much cider. Henry, John's 9 year-old son, was crowned King Henry III. Henry could not fully assume his position as King until the age of 21.
Between 1216 and 1225 the rebel barons were defeated and the Magna Carta was reissued three times. Henry III was succeeded in 1272 by William I who reissued the Magna Carta in 1297.
The Magna Carta became part of the law of England and the foundation for ideas that forever changed the way people viewed the relationship between the people and the King.
Today the Magna Carta is a symbol of the triumph of liberty over tyranny. Its legacy can be captured in the principles below, which have developed over the last 800 years:
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